Former refugee Cyrille Tchatchet’s Commonwealth medal dream ended by body cramps

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Perseverance has always been at the heart of the Cyrille Tchatchet story.

It was in evidence again at Birmingham’s NEC as the weightlifter returned to the Commonwealth Games stage, eight years after competing for his native Cameroon at Glasgow 2014.

A sprained ankle cost him a medal on that occasion, finishing fifth in the 85kg category, leading to a tumultuous period in his life after he decided to stay in Britain and seek asylum.

He experienced homelessness, depression, and spells in immigration detention centres before finally being granted Britain citizenship and the chance to represent Team England.

But his quest for Commonwealth Games redemption did not have the fairytale ending it deserved as cramp ravaged the 27-year-old’s body in the men’s 96kg final, just a day after his birthday.

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Birmingham’s adoptive son tried everything in his power to complete a clean & jerk attempt, having put himself in with a chance of a silver medal with a snatch of 158kg.

Yet he was left in agony on the floor after attempting 185kg with his first go, before finishing flat on his back after a second effort just seconds later as the home support roared him on.

Refusing to give up on his dream, Tchatchet increased his lift to 188kg to give himself a chance to recover but the cramp got the better of him as he exited the competition.

With Tchatchet too devastated to speak to the media afterwards, Team England weightlifting manager Stuart Martin instead revealed that bad luck had struck at the worst time.

“After his first warm-up with the bar, his quads started cramping. We did all the things we could think of, he drank some soda water, he had some sugary sweets, sour sweets,” he said.

“We tried to massage them out, we tried to relax him as best we could and get him in the most comfortable position we could. He took a 120kg clean and the same thing happened again.

“We did the same thing again, we had about six lifts left on the clock. He said he wanted to do another one, he did 150kg and the same thing happened again.

“We let him relax, tried to get him as calm as we could but it wasn’t to be. It’s horrible to go through what Cyrille has been through in the last seven years since he took refuge in the UK.

“For him to miss out on a silver medal, realistically, looking at that board – he was very capable of that – is absolutely gutting but the team are proud of him and we’re here to support him.

“We hope in the next few days he feels a little better and can re-focus himself and we can see him back with us soon and hopefully at the next Commonwealth Games.”

Birmingham was where Tchatchet, who now works for the NHS as a senior practitioner on a community mental health team near his new home in Walsall, was relocated after being released from the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.

And despite the best attempts of a raucous NEC crowd to lift him to the top of the podium, it was Samoa’s Don Opeloge who took gold with a new Commonwealth Games record.

Cyrille Tchatchet’s story would not have a fairytale finish

Martin now hopes Tchatchet can bounce back from his latest setback.

“I’ve never seen anybody go out there with their whole body cramped and clean 180kilos and I doubt I ever will again – and I hope I never do again,” continued Martin.

“I hope it doesn’t ever take anybody’s medals away from them in the way that just did to Cyrille. He’s devastated and we’ll have to do everything we can to support him over the next few days.

“Anybody who knows Cyrille’s story will know that he’s going to find it very, very tough. We see that as incredibly important right now to help him cope with this and find a way through.”

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He added: “I hope maybe in Victoria in four years’ time he gets the opportunity to win the medal that he wanted to win today. That would be my real wish and hope.”

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